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Phil Harrison

Age: 46

Occupation:Careers Adviser

Number of Cruises: 27

Cruise Line: P & O Cruises

Ship: Oceana

Sailing Date: July 22nd 2007

Itinerary: Western Europe


 

First of all some background. We were cruising as a family myself and my wife 3 children 17,15 and 5 and my mother in her late 70’s.we have cruised many times over the years with lots of different lines.

We enjoyed the experience overall very much but no holiday is without hiccups and this was no different. Overall impressions were that the Oceana is a nice clean ship but is looking tired in places and I understand is due a refit. It’s also noticeable that despite only being 7 years old designs have moved on to make it seem a bit behind. For example, the showers are pretty pathetic compared to most newer ships. Most now have a door not the dreaded curtain which seeks to flood your cabin and I lost count of the number of times the water almost completely lost pressure and changed temperature from hot to cold without me touching anything! I cruised on the sister ship Sea Princess 2 years ago and whilst the shower wasn’t powerful it didn’t go on or off and change temperature so I suspect it was addressed at her refit.

First impressions do count for a lot and when we got on board we had a nice meal in the Plaza as our cabin wasn’t ready.

However, when we made our way to the cabin our second impression was negative. The cabin absolutely reeked of smoke and I don’t just mean a vague stale smell it reeked it was almost impossible to stay in there and upset my daughter. I contacted the cabin steward who confirmed it had been used by “very heavy” smokers the previous cruise(her words not mine).She said she would come along and use a spray later on. This she did but it just masked the smell for a while it didn’t neutralize it. She also arranged to have the carpet shampooed 2 days later but the smell lingered all cruise it faded but was still noticeable. Why can’t P&O have designated smoking and non-smoking cabins? Easy enough to do.

Overall I found the food at formal dining to be superior to our most recent cruises on NCL, Princess and Fred Olsen but not as good as Cunard. However, I was less impressed with the buffet food quality and the “flow” of passengers and seating, it was like a pitched battle most times. My son was also unimpressed (as was I) that the buffet finished at 9.30 pm.That meant the only late night dining option was Café Jardin which had very limited choice .To my mind, this was simply to accommodate the pay restaurant. However, Sea Princess is exactly the same ship and manages to open a pay restaurant and keep the buffet open. Cost cutting, methinks.

I found the entertainment though inferior to other lines the singers and dancers (Stadium theatre company) were not a patch on the Jean Ann Ryan Company on NCL or the Princess offerings .I thought unlike some of the other reviewers that Mike Doyle the comedian was just ok nothing special, I was expecting a “name” in peak season. Doubling up one of the theatres as a cinema was good though perhaps more could have been made of that.

One of the biggest issues perhaps is the overall design of the ship. It was designed for the Caribbean market with lots of open deck space but internally many of the bars are small. When we spent a whole day in a force 7 through the Bay of Biscay the ship appeared very overcrowded almost impossible to get a seat in any of the main public areas. The ship also rolled a good deal. This will seem like heresy to many P&O regulars but whilst the Oriana and Aurora seem suited to sail out- sail back I think the Oceana would be better suited to fly cruising all year round and might actually give customers wanting to cruise with P& O more choice.

Ports:
Dublin-overnight stay so first evening we just sampled some Dublin bars just for atmosphere Dublin is beautiful but very packed with tourists. Next day went on open top bus tour this is brilliant for seeing lots of sights without too much walking and the inevitable crowds! Our ticket got us on the Red and Green buses the Red has recorded commentary but the green which we got later on (as it is hop on hop off) was live commentary and hilarious. Some of the Americans just didn’t understand the Irish humor though. The guy at the start said “we are just waiting to sober up the driver by walking him up and down for a bit!” some looked genuinely worried. Got on and off at few places spent most time at Jameson's Distillery nice pub/restaurant round the corner.

Bilbao - Had arranged a private tour through totally Spain very reasonable private minibus all day for 450 Euros. Only problem was that the driver spoke 2 words of English “Good Morning” so we had to struggle with my rudimentary Spanish and getting others to translate. We went to the Guggenheim just to have a look which is stunning the flower Dog statue impressed us all young and old. Then went to Bakio via fantastic scenery rolling green hills with lots of Swiss style cottages, lovely unspoiled beach resort with fantastic surf .The on to a church that is on an outcrop of rock San Juan de Gaztelugatxe however you have to walk to it and its very hilly and takes about an hour on the way back, we didn’t have the time or stamina really but the views were absolutely fantastic.

Went back to Bilbao via the Transporter bridge quite near the terminal in Santurce which basically has a hanging compartment that carries cars and passengers very impressive feat of engineering and very old 1880’s.

La Rochelle- Had been to la Rochelle before which is a lovely harbor town but as we had been we went to a water park in the next resort along at Chatellaion-Plage.It was very cheap to get into (4 Euros) and had indoor and outdoor pools and slides the kids loved it.

Guernsey- Tendering took AGES I got a ticket and was told it would be about a 40 minute wait it took an hour and 40 minutes for us to be called. Loud cheers every time a number was called. A couple of hors was all we had so just pottered around St peter port quite small and quaint like an old British town.

As far as the staff go there were also positive and negatives. The kids club staff were excellent and my youngest was actually asking could she go whereas last year she didn’t want to go as they were a bit too much “in your face” so we didn’t make her go. However, whilst a lot of cruise lines have the syrupy have a nice day type of attitude we found some of the staff quite surly and unlike a lot of cruise lines didn’t make a fuss of the children they largely ignored them.

One waiter actually pointed to my 5 year old daughter one night at the meal and said “What does she want?” in a way that indicated he didn’t think she should be there at all! In fact she was very well behaved.

Overall it sounds like more negatives than positives but we did enjoy the cruise but perhaps not quite as much as we expected to. Highs-food in the main restaurant.

Lows-some of the staff attitude and mediocre entertainment.


 

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